Monday, February 22, 2016

A Letter To Arayo

Arayo had the most expressive face I ever photographed
If you are lucky, once in a lifetime, a soul enters your life and touches you in such a way that you are never the same again.

Such was the bond that began by a mud hut in Uganda. As I held her weathered brown hand, I promised the frail 100 year old woman that I would name my next “child” after her, then all too soon, I began a search for a dog who I hoped would embody her same wondrous soul. My sweet Arayo. After months of searching for the perfectly healthy dog with a temperament of gold, you climbed into my lap, and I knew my search was over. You had claimed me as yours and while everyone said “leave that dog alone” our hearts were already joined.

For the next 11 1/2 years we moved through life in unison.  Many came to know you through your health challenges, and you slowly won over even the toughest critics - those who said you would be nothing but heart break and expense. “I thought you were crazy, but now I understand,” even my vet admitted.
Willing to pose in the most unusual places

As a Newfoundland supermodel, you tolerated hours in front of a camera, and became known across the globe through your line of cards and prints.

Trained for water rescue (the Newfoundland breed’s calling), you delighted swimmers, kayakers and even a stranded motor boat owner as you pulled them from the frigid Puget Sound waters.

Together we sat with the dying, while you rested your big head on laps and I watched weary hands reach out to caress your soft fur.  

To a child, kidnapped by a parent and hidden away for years, unschooled - you offered weekly encouragement to learn to read. You brought joy to a little girl, upset over her parent’s divorce, and as the two of you worked to learn new skills, you were her teammate as she became the youngest person, at 10 years old, to put a new working title on a giant Newfoundland dog.

As a friend to a crusty old sailor who had lost his hearing and eyesight, you offered a steading brace during hours spent on the docks as he relived long ago days spent at sea.

Then came the day we packed our car and headed across the US and Canada, with just a tent, a camera and a blog. As word of your travels spread, for 6 months, people reached out, invited you into their homes and strangers became life-long friends.

A 7th birthday portrait
In Newfoundland, you patiently posed for hundreds of travelers and locals alike, who wanted a photo with a Newfoundland dog. Wonder filled the faces of young children, who had never seen a Newfoundland outside of a picture book. And on that long lonely stretch of road across the Province, an ambulance stopped, a side door opened and as you were motioned closer, I watched as the face of the patient inside was transformed by an enormous smile.

Then, finally we traveled to be with my mother while her life was being claimed by cancer. Often, I’d hear her talking and discover you at her side, keeping her company in her final days.

My sweet sweet Arayo. You were the one that was supposed to live forever, and, as a stranger wrote - if tears could heal, you would. Together we traveled so many roads, shared so many experiences, and met so many wonderful people.  Because of you, my life has been far richer than I could ever have imagined.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sweet Sweet Arayo - April 17, 2004 - February 5, 2016

Arayo poses for a holiday card. She always had the most expressive eyes.
How can it be that my sweet Arayo is gone?  A few weeks ago I noticed a growth on the side of her mouth. The vet immediately took her into surgery and removed a tumor and two teeth, but within 6 days the tumor was back and growing quickly. 

Hemangiosarcoma.  The vet said to just love her - it would go quickly. And it did. In 3 weeks the cancer had won.  When she wouldn't take her daily walks to the malecon and eat big meals topped with layers of whipped cream, I knew it was time. A friend called the vet for me and Arayo and I cuddled on the couch for 6 hours before I had to say the final goodbye.  It has been a week and a half and I am still destroyed by the loss.  

I have written a letter to my sweet girl which I will publish in a day or so.  In the meantime - 

Arayo - Capriccio's Life's What U Make It, CD, DD, WD1
April 17, 2004 - February 5, 2016
Arayo poses for her second Living Legend Portrait - age 11

Companion Dog, Draft Dog, Water Dog (twice!). Certified Therapy Dog and Crisis Response Dog.  Living Legend twice.

Supermodel with own line of cards and prints, international world traveler with her own blog, great camper, friend to too many people to count.

Patient, gentle, kind (though a couple cats and a bird might disagree).

My sweet girl, I don't know if the tears will ever really stop.  My life is forever enriched for having shared all the experiences of the last 11 1/2 years with you.  11 years, 20 years, even 50 years would not be time enough. You took an enormous piece of my heart with you in your passing. How I miss you.